Why not a ‘people’s vaccine’?
We are privileged in this community to live in a wealthy country that was one of the first in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This life-saving shot in the arm is not being equally distributed around the world. Countries like Canada, the U.S. and those in the E.U. are buying up most of the global supply of vaccines, while billions of people in poorer countries will have to wait until well into 2022 or later before they get their fair share.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a broad coalition including Oxfam, UNAIDS, Amnesty International and others, is challenging what they call “vaccine nationalism.” They say on their website that “nearly 70 poor countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people against COVID-19 next year unless urgent action is taken. Rich nations, representing just 14 per cent of the world’s population, have bought up 53 per cent of all the most promising vaccines so far.
Why can’t we treat the COVID vaccine the way we treat the flu shot? In that model, set up by the World Health Organization, 110 countries and 130 laboratories pool information on what strains of influenza are circulating in their countries. Based on that information, the WHO releases a formula for the flu vaccine, which anyone, anywhere can produce, completely free of any proprietary intellectual property or monopoly. Billions have taken the vaccine since the 1970s based on this cooperative system of pooling knowledge as well as finances.
We know the coronavirus does not respect borders. No nation will be safe until all nations are safe. As Canadians, we should be supporting a coordinated, collective effort to end this pandemic. A “people’s vaccine” would put global public health ahead of pharmaceutical company profits (money made after development, production and distribution costs are reimbursed) and serve as a model for combating future pandemics.